Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mindset of decline

Today in the Herald there was a somewhat random op-ed from Aaron David Miller. For one bigger paper, the column appeared also in the LA Times. The thesis is that Obama "misread his moment" and though at the right time did the wrong things to be able to achieve greatness.

You could criticize the thesis, but I want to go in a direction more applicable for this blog. Miller is basically describing a declining, self-absorbed America that will not address serious long-term issues including climate change. Miller concludes with
Americans aren't so much looking for great presidents, big ideas or historic transformations. They want satisfaction on mundane matters such as prosperity, keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks and an end to the roller-coaster ride of partisanship, name-calling and celebrity politics that is Washington today.

Give us bread ('cut my taxes!') and circuses ('what reality show is on?'), and keep us from being too scared... then nothing else matters much?

Miller pegs America as visionless and unconcerned about anything beyond point A and right now. I wish I could say he has it wrong, but with how frequently we see the same refrains for the status quo on energy and climate, maybe he has it right. All the cries of how we have to keep using fossil fuels the same as (seemingly) we have forever, we cannot put a price on carbon pollution, etc. because it would cripple us lend support to Miller's picture of America as wallet-obsessed, even so narrowly to the point of failing to recognize how such a shake-up on energy would actually still be beneficial on that front.

Are Americans collectively as short-sighted as Miller thinks? Is there only concern for the immediate perceived needs, without even realizing that foresight and investing in the future may satisfy those concerns at least as well as the same old, same old scorched earth policy? The voices of Miller and the energy delayers and climate change deniers say we can only coast along and not face and solve big problems. I still believe America can have more gas in the tank than that. And that gas is sustainable and does not produce fossil carbon pollution - maybe it is not even gas but battery power!

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